There was a barely stifled schadenfreudian glee echoing across the liberal press through this burning hot summer. Environmentalists could scarcely disguise their we-told-you-so smirks as one suffocating heatwave after another rolled over the globe, wildfires savaged landscapes from Siberia to California and broken temperature records kept piling up.
But yearning for catastrophe is an ugly desire, and it is exactly the wrong way to think about global warming. Disasters always hit marginalised people first and worst, and as tempting as it might be to hope the calamities of 2018 bring new kinds of change, that desire only betrays how badly environmentalism needs to be overhauled.
It is a historically precarious moment for the environment. We constantly hear dire warnings from some UN body or scientific panel that we have this many years left and these thresholds before we hit the tipping points and the whole world unravels. Despite this piercing urgency, the languages at hand are so consistently inept that it often feels impossible to know what real change might be or how to talk about it.
The reflexive condescension of environmentalism that looks down on those working in industry is precisely what we do not need. Working people whose livelihoods and families depend on resource extraction have no time for catastrophism, and defaulting to that desire sets back climate justice movements immeasurably.
Ecology has to speak to class directly and confront inequality with believable claims that a different world is possible.